Living with Meaning, Part Two: Inauthentic Existence

- through Francois Leclercq

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An existentially compromised person, who is not accustomed to acting authentically and with absolutely pure intentions, may not realize that his position in the face of reality leads to intellectual insecurity and instability, and tends towards the absurd. As a result, their mind undergoes constant changes, which become stresses and psycho-physical complexes, unhealthily leaning and leading to the dark and dark side of "being-in-the-world", and even to consider life as disjointed, hopeless, and meaningless.

Such mental afflictions can easily lead to drug addiction and alcoholism, physical abuse and self-abuse, and, tragically, even suicide – as French author Albert Camus' existential posture shows. , who asserted that suicide is the one and only serious philosophical thought. question.

Czech novelist Franz Kafka turned his compromised protagonist into a creepy crawling cockroach-like creature, and while that might seem like a slightly better solution, it's still fraught with lingering, unrelenting psychic pain.

The ideas of "self" and "existence" certainly take a hit.

Jean-Paul Sartre's protagonists, too, express self-hatred. And the problem is not just with the individual, solitary self, but also evident in Sartre's axiom, "Hell is other people." An ordinary, mundane man adhering to conventional reality and normal rules of conduct is portrayed as a figure with no meaningful or noble role to play. This is because he, in a cowardly and inauthentic way, invariably consents to obediently conduct common, customary, conventional, and colorless patterns of behavior, while playing out a seemingly insignificant, pointless, and meaningless existence.

A typical example would be to assume that "a server is just a server", devoid of genuine choice and incapable of bold, individual and genuine action. And so "the whole world becomes a stage," full of fake and inauthentic character actors, and life becomes a masquerade, which is true for any type of traditional, fixed social role-playing game.

Unfortunately, society often dictates “the way things should be,” and so behavioral role-playing comes down to acting according to the norm – with few or no exceptions and little or no choice.

It is also a problem in contemporary society. Children with a strict and unimaginative social upbringing are forced to follow the norm and behave like “good kids”. They are rarely, if ever, allowed to make their own individual choices, which borders on emotional fear – no wonder some smart kids hate school.

Such strict social constraints on "doing good" leave little, if any, individual "freedom of choice" based on intention to commit a genuine moral act, so that the causes, effects and consequences of such actions are morally commendable.

So-called “good” without genuine choice unfortunately becomes mere rote behavior; while choosing good for good, compassion, love and human well-being is the kind of “authentic action” that gives meaning to life.

The way people judge each other can be based on social norms or how one intentionally chooses to act for good, for good's sake, while simultaneously avoiding any feelings of "evil". , considering the harm it could do.

The maxim becomes: "One can happily choose to do the wholesome action for the good it may do, or one can conscientiously avoid the unwholesome action for the harm it may do." »

Because it is unfair to judge someone unfairly, this is another reason why one should choose one's thoughts, words and actions authentically, rather than simply doing what is socially expected and unwittingly imposed by external authority figures such as parents, teachers and social authorities. leaders.

The way one behaves authentically is important for loving and accepting oneself, which leads to happiness, regardless of the so-called critical “look” of the sanitary society. Especially since simply doing what others ask and expect of you is far less, if at all, spiritually satisfying. Should children love their parents, or should women love their men, or should employees respect their bosses just because that's what's expected of them? Sounds like a sensitive question, but the answer should be obvious.

It is better and more rewarding to live with a compassionate, open, generous and loving heart, than to behave “correctly” like an automaton. Not having freedom in the choice of words and actions will obviously become a problem of mental development. Indeed, there must be freedom of choice to sake to cultivate mental health.

If, conversely, we allow ourselves an unbridled freedom of choice in which "anything goes," we may end up like Jack London's Captain Wolf Larsen, with little or no emotional self-control and little or no respect or compassion for others; he becomes an “Ubermensch,“A psychopath-like dictator in a world of survival of the fittest, where such a person easily becomes a danger to self and society.

Alternatively, if one becomes a nihilistic and existential hedonist, believing in nothing and seeking pleasure and sensuality to erase the so-called emptiness and meaninglessness of life, one can become a danger to oneself and/or or for those who depend on self.

If one becomes a psychopath, with power and no self-control, there is no harm one cannot do, and one will likely become a danger not only to oneself, but to all the society.

If one becomes a nihilistic hedonist living a life of selfish, reckless indulgence, it easily leads to addiction to sex, drugs, alcohol, probably ending in the self-destruction, slowly or quickly, of one way or another.

There are in fact as many possibilities for the evolution of life as there are people. What is needed for mental balance, when surfing the great and dangerous breaking waves on the open oceans of life, is the skill of being able to see and choose the middle way between too much and too much. little ; what is needed is the discernment to make moral choices devoted to the good and well-being not only of oneself, but of one's loved ones and of all sentient beings.

It is difficult to strive to live like a Bodhisattva, a Noble, but there is no better way to follow – which is certainly reassuring to know. It is more rewarding to live and to give with an open heart, full of love, than to be content to act impersonally and mechanically according to standards imposed from outside, like an inhuman and impassive automaton.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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